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Dream a little dream

I can think of no one I’d rather start my life dreams guest series out with. Adrienne is someone I greatly admire. She is so brave and knows how to use tough love better than almost anyone I know. She’s also not afraid to admit her flaws and failures. She manages to be both a hero and an imperfect human at the same time all with a grace that amazes me.

Her passionate words never fail to inspire me. She is an advocate for persons with mental illness as she fights that battle every day with her precious son Carter. I never question the fact that she is an incredible mother and the following post is a perfect illustration of that.

My mother always encouraged my dreams and told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I know that impacted my life so positively. Adrienne’s children will surely thank her for her strength and encouragement of their dreams no matter what career they end up with later in life.

And her dream, although it sat on the shelf for awhile, has certainly become a reality now. She is one of my favorite writers.

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When I was in kindergarten, I took dance classes for the first time. “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a ballerina!”

“No one in our family is petite enough to be a dancer.”

When I was in first grade, the highlight of my week was choir practice at church. “Daddy, I want to be a singer when I grow up!”

“You can’t even carry a tune.”

When I was in third grade, I was in love with Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls on Little House On the Prairie. “Dad, I want to be an actress when I grow up!”

“Yeah, well, lots of people want to be in the movies. Most people never get a single acting job.”

In my family, dreaming is sort of like picking one’s nose; everybody does it, but it’s a dirty, shameful habit in which one should only indulge furtively, in private.

When I was in fourth grade, we had squiggle books. Mine was an orange spiral notebook in which my teacher made a little mark – the squiggle. From that squiggle, I drew a picture, and from the picture, I wrote a story. By Halloween, I’d learned to spend no more than 5 minutes on my picture so I could have as much time as possible writing my stories.

I learned to play with words, to paint pictures and evoke feelings and create a new world. We worked in those squiggle books the first 30 minutes of every day and I wasted not a single one of them. The classroom fell away. The shuffling of papers; the grinding of the pencil sharpener; the glare of the fluorescent lights; nothing existed except me and my pencil.

Since I was only nine years old, I didn’t have words to describe what was happening to me, but now I do: I was falling in love.

I didn’t mean to say it out loud; I knew what would happen when I voiced the hope that kept me company in my bed at night and on the school bus ride every morning. I knew I should keep it to myself; that this was special, totally unlike my desire to be a ballerina or an actress or a singer, but one day, there it was. “Mom, when I grow up I want to be a writer!”

“Do you have any idea how many people want to be writers? Millions. Hardly any of them make it.”

This part of the story would be way better if my indomitable artist’s spirit wouldn’t let me give up and I persevered in spite of my parents’ naysaying ways, but no. I let the dream die. I didn’t write for my high school newspaper or take creative writing; I didn’t write stories in notebooks or even keep a journal. I forgot all about it.

Hell, if you can’t be Don DeLillo or Joyce Carol Oates, why even bother, right?

I gave up on dreams and, for a thousand reasons, I floundered my way through the next 20 or so years of my life. I tried some things; I mothered my children and pretended to care about domestic sorts of things, but a life without a dream, no matter how full, is missing something. Being a mother wasn’t my dream, but I tried to force it to fulfill me completely because I didn’t know what else to do.

I had so thoroughly given up on finding something that I loved to do that I didn’t even think about it. In the midst of divorcing my two eldest children’s dad, going back to college, and meeting my husband, I didn’t have a plan for my future. I had a vague hope that someday, when the time came for me to earn an income, I would manage to find something I didn’t hate.

If aiming low is a dachshund, I a snake crawling between the dachshund’s paws.

Jacob, my eldest child, was in 5th grade when he came to me and said, “Mom, I want to be a famous drummer when I grow up!”

The words were instantly in my mouth. “Lots of kids want to be drummers, Jacob. Only a few of them get to be famous.”

Somehow, they didn’t make it out of my mouth and into the space between us. Instead, I said, “You’re an awesome drummer! You’ve been practicing a lot lately!”

A close call, and a moment of grace, too, since up to that moment I had never given any thought to the way my parents responded to my childish excitement over future possibilities.

He answered me, “Yeah, but I’m not as good as Neil Peart, though. He’s the best. I’ll never be the best.”

“Do you love drumming, Jacob?”

His face was bright. “Of course I do!”

“Then you’ll be a drummer. Whether you get to be famous or you play at local shows or you keep a drum set in your garage and play it for your kids, you’ll be a drummer.”

God bless that boy, he took the bait. “I’m always going to play the drums! I hope I get to be famous, though.”

“I hope so too, Jacob.”

My childhood dream, when I finally found it, was dusty, but the joy was still alive in it. I dove in and found out that if I laid down some words in lines, some people would read those words.

Don DeLillo I am not. I have an audience perhaps 0.0000000001% the size of Joyce Carol Oates’s audience. Still, my childhood dream of someday being a writer has come true, just like Jacob’s dream of being a drummer will come true. Whether either of us is ever famous or earns pots of money, we will always do what we love.

I’m so glad I didn’t take that away from him.

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If you think you’re inspired now just wait until you read her blog: NoPointsForStyle.com

Also, definitely follow her on Twitter: @NoStylePoints

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4 Comments

  1. Adrienne, so nice to come find you here! (and Abigail, thanks for inviting her) I feel so sad for the little girl with the squashed dreams, I want to go back in time and stop your parents from doing that to you. Sigh. It is so wonderful that you were able to resist replicating your childhood traumas with your kids. That level of realistic encouragement feels so just right to me, I hope I manage that with mine.

    And I am so glad that you were able to dig up your childhood dream, dust it off and pick up the pen again, (OK, keyboard, whatever, pen sounds soooo much more poetic) because I love reading you, and the world would have been deprived of a wonderful voice if you had not begun to write anew.

  2. Hey, Adrienne!

    Imagine meeting you here!

    Love that you have dusted off that dream.

    And that you have the words and the talent and the time to make that dream come true.

    You are a writer.

    Look at you!

  3. strawbrykiwi

    Awww!!! This is so sweet!! 🙂 I'm so glad that Abigail started the series out with you!

  4. Beautiful post, Adrienne!!

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